Sunday, November 30, 2014

Psychiatric Euthanasia

In the Netherlands, the same legal demands are made of euthanasia for psychiatric patients as those made for people suffering from a physical disease. The patient must be subject to unbearable and hopeless suffering and there should be no other reasonable recourse. The issue with psychiatric patients is that further treatment is always available and that it is harder to determine if a patient is of sound mind.

The first psychiatric patient who received assisted suicide was a woman with mysophobia. Psychiatrist Gerty Casteelen explains that she slowly started to understand the patient’s desire to commit euthanasia. “I couldn’t understand it at first. It was a long process. I came to understand that her fears completely controlled her life. All she could do was clean. It was impossible for the patient to maintain a relationship. Her whole development stalled.” 

Friday, November 28, 2014


If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels. - Tennessee Williams

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fail. Miserably.

During last night's election coverage, CNN commentators used Microsoft Surface as kickstand for their iPads. CNN, however, says it had no product-placement deal with Microsoft.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Relative Position

We are social creatures; our satisfaction is largely determined by how we stack up relative to others. People make seemingly irrational choices when given the following two scenarios. Imagine being in line, with a chance of receiving cash when you reach a counter. In one scenario, you get $100. In another, you get $150 but the person ahead of you gets $1000. Most people prefer to be in the first scenario even though they end up with less money than in the second one. Once our basic needs are met, we care more about our relative position in a group than in some absolute measure of our reward. 

It Doesn't Stop

Psychological adaptations are complex behavioral patterns built into our minds over many generations. The same forces that select genes for physical features of the body also select genes for features of the brain to carry out functions that ultimately give the organism a reproductive advantage. For example, our general experience of beauty is the result of a loose ensemble of evolutionary adaptations. What ties different people, places and proofs together into the experience of beauty is that our ancestors, who happened to find pleasure in these objects, were the people who had more children.

Nowadays, we also can change our environment. Some West African populations cut clearings in the rain forest to cultivate yams; as a result of more standing water, more malaria-carrying mosquitoes bread; malaria, in turn, increased the frequency of the gene for sickle cell anemia in the population, because this gene offers protection against malaria. So cutting down trees resulted in more people having sickle cell anemia. When we modify our environment, these modifications can bounce back to influence our biology and psychology.  

Peak Shift

Junk food capitalizes on our evolutionary predispositions for sugar and fat. It works using the peak shift principle, that is, take a stimulus that produces a certain response and then exaggerate its critical features to exaggerate the response.